Sunday, May 8, 2011

STOP With The "Break Up The ... " Analysis

One of the most irritating things that occur in sports nowadays is the "break up the ... " analysis. After a team falls short of reaching their ultimate goals, people seem to always want to break up those teams.

It happened last week when the San Antonio Spurs were upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs. "They're too old!" "Their dynasty is over!" "Break up the Spurs!" is all we heard. Even a co-worker asked me how the Spurs should disassemble their team.

I told them, you don't. You just don't.

You can reconfigure the team. The 2011 Tim Duncan isn't the 2003 one. Manu Ginobili will have that Allen Iverson decline very soon. There are old guys on that roster. But if you look at this Spurs "dynastic" period, they have done a great job at reconfiguring their team.

You had those Duncan, David Robinson, Sean Elliot, Avery Johnson team in 1999. They emerged into the Duncan, Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson championship team in 2003. That team saw David Robinson, an instant Hall Of Fame player, take a reduced role. The 2005 and 2007 teams were built around the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili formula ... the one that's reaching their closing window right now.

That formula won the Spurs 61 games this season ... so why is there such an urgency to break San Antonio up? Yeah, they lost to the 8th-seeded Grizzlies, but that Memphis team is not your typical fodder fed up to the top seed. Who's to say that with a little tinkering and changing of players' roles that these Spurs couldn't be right in the mix again?

The same thing is happening in Los Angeles. With the Lakers on the verge of elimination and ending their string of three consecutive Finals and two championships, people ... including Magic Johnson ... are clammoring that these Lakers need to break up. Why?

Kobe Bryant is still better than 90% of the rest of the league. Pau Gasol, despite his meek showing in this postseason, is one of the top big men in the league. Andrew Bynum is consistently on the verge of becoming a star. Lamar Odom just won the Sixth Man award.

Sure, the Lakers look a bit old against the Mavericks. Their ages aren't typically ancient, but these guys have a ton of wear on those tires. Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have played a ton of postseason games. Bynum came into the league as the youngest player to ever be drafted. Gasol and Odom were still wet behind the ears when they started their NBA careers.

Reconfigure is more like it. With so much labor turmoil, who knows where the next CBA will be. Plus, LA is a very desirable destination and a couple of big names (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul) could head that way.

Plus one of the things you need to consider is what the 2011-2012 season will look like. It could be a short season that wouldn't take as much out of an older squad (then again, a rushed schedule similar to 1999 could wear a team out). Needless to say, it isn't necessary to just blow up a team because it didn't finish off a brilliant season. Strap it on and try again.

Just look at the history of it. It took the Bulls over a decade to go from the Jordan-Pippen-Phil Jackson era before they were title contenders again. It took the Celtics over 20 years after the Bird-McHale-Parrish teams until they won it again. And that was because they got a great discount in trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Yeah, the Lakers post Magic-Kareem-Worthy down times weren't as long as that, but that's due to shrewdly "drafting" Kobe Bryant and trading everyone to lure Shaquille O'Neal via free agency.

Ask the 1990s Sonics, the 1990s Suns (or the current ones) or the current Pistons how easy it is to break apart a title caliber team and build a new one.

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